Coffee and Tea – 2 September 2021

Not one, but two chances to dine out today.

Met Val at 11am for coffee and a chat, mainly about tech as usual. Any kind of tech was fair game. Val was raving about a new type of vinyl record which is heavier and less flexible than old vinyl, meaning the needle doesn’t have the same tendency to slip. I was raving about the new (to me) Sony A6000 whose sensor, although smaller than the mighty Sony A7M2 held just as much information. We both ooh’d and aah’d at each other tech, but neither of us were really interested in the other’s wonders, we were so entranced by our own.

Just after 12.30 we parted company, Val to meet his wife to go shopping and me to drive down to the village for lunch with June, Ian, Isobel and Scamp. We hoped that Shona would be able to join us, but she didn’t make it. The other four had ordered before I arrived, but had kept a place for me at the table. Lots for everyone to talk about and we cross-talked a lot. The problems of getting to a Skye wedding hopefully next year. The glory of new windows (not Microsoft, glass ones). How to tell when you’re too old to drive. Plus lots more. Food was passable although my panini with bacon, brie and cranberry was just a bit over stuffed and Scamp’s baked potato had been out of the oven too long and was also a bit tasteless. Foodies can always fault food.

After everyone was almost talked out and the tea had been drunk and the potatoes had been eaten we split up. Scamp was going home June & Ian were going to sort out June’s medicine and I was taking Isobel up to Tesco. While she and I was there I got carrots to make Carrot and Lentil Curry. Took Isobel back home and changed my mind about the curry, so went to M&S to get the ingredients for a stir fry. Instead of the usual sticky sauce, I took a packet of Chicken Ramen Broth to try as an alternative. It worked well, except I didn’t notice that the veg had green beans in it, one of Scamp’s “ I DON’T LIKE IT!” vegetables. I allowed her to leave them in a separate bowl. We both agreed it was a pleasant change from the sticky sweet sauce we usually have, although not as good as Scamp’s stir fry.

When I eventually got home the sun had appeared and I changed into my shots and tee shirt and went seeking Beasties. I found loads, but PoD went to a little Shield Bug.

No dancing practise tonight, but hopefully we’ll have one tomorrow. Nothing else planned as yet. Weather is beginning to head towards rain at the weekend, so maybe we should make the most of these last few warm days.

Climbing and Flying – 1 September 2021

The assault on Croy Hill, the reverse direction.

Scamp suggested we go and visit Silvanus, the Roman warrior’s head that stands on the edge of Croy Hill, and instead of walking the usual path from Croy itself, we could walk along the canal and up on to the old railway line and tackle the hill from the north. It was a beautiful morning with blue skies and sun, so the walk seemed like a good idea, but first I wanted a closer look at a plane.

We’ve seen and heard a Spitfire flying around the town and I wanted a closer look. With that thought in mind we drove up to Wardpark and past the airfield, but saw no evidence of the old warbird. Disappointed I drove over to Kilsyth and from there to Auchinstarry where we parked and put on sensible walking boots for the walk.

I’d forgotten just how steep the climb was from the canal up to the old mineral line, but thankfully once we had reached that path, most of the hard work was done and we were on level ground for a stretch. The statue of Silvanus was much further along than we remembered, but as we were walking I could hear the sound of the Spitfire’s Merlin engines although I couldn’t see the plane itself. I checked with Flightradar24 and found that the plane was almost over Carron Reservoir, about 5 miles away. The sound of the plane faded as it dropped behind the hills. We walked on and as we neared the statue we could hear it returning. This time, with the help of Flightradar I found it heading straight for us. I took a few photos of it before it banked and overflew the airfield before climbing and performing a neat slow roll. Then it turned and headed back with flaps and undercarriage down. A few more photos before it disappeared over the hill to the airfield. I wasn’t sure I’d captured it, but at least it was better than nothing. A little bit of research at home led me to its website. You can book a flight in this two seater Spitfire. £3,000 will get you a 30 min flight in this old lady, which is five years older than me. I may have to save my pennies for a long time before I book that flight!

We met a bloke at the statue who was a Kilsyth local and was impressed that he’d ID’d the Spitfire. He wasn’t a fan of the Silvanus head, but like us was pleased that it hadn’t been vandalised in the time it had been up on the hill. We said our goodbyes and headed up over the hill while he seemed to take a lower path. I must admit I was wary of the hill because we’d passed notices to say that the cattle were back on the hill for the winter. These cattle are big brutes, if I remember right and I don’t like cattle at the best of times. “The best of times “ being when there’s a fence between them and me. There are no fences on Croy Hill. However we didn’t meet any today and we took the ‘easier’ paths where they were available, missing out the tourist routes over the tops.

When we had passed the top and were coming down the other side I realises Scamp wasn’t behind me. I walked back, expecting to find her having a seat somewhere. She was nowhere to be seen. I shouted for her, twice, but no response. I changed to a wider path that was closer to the edge and there she was. Did she not hear me shouting? Yes, she had. That could have been a time to pick up a ‘black monkey’, but for some reason I didn’t lose it. I think I was just glad to see she hadn’t come to any harm. She said she was on the right path and knew I’d eventually realise I was on the wrong one. That could be the story of my life!

When we got back to the car it was absolutely boiling inside. Drove home with the air con on full. It was lovely.

I spent the afternoon cleaning the sensors of the two Sonys. They seem to be absolute dust magnets. They are a bit cleaner now. Not perfect, but a lot better than they were. After that I got a request from Jamie to fix a photo for Sim. It was a fairly easy bit of editing, made even easier by the new Photoshop. Scamp was cleaning up the leaves in the back garden and managed to scrape both arms raking leaves from under the blackcurrant bush. Then it was Guinness and Pimms time in the garden, in the sun.

Fish & Fried Potatoes with tomatoes for dinner. A new twist on Fish & Chips. After that we sat in the garden while I listened to the end of my Alan Parks book, Bobby March Will Live Forever. Good story with a poor reader. It was there I got PoD. I was looking at a wee single sweet pea flower backlit by the setting sun. It took a wee bit of editing to get it looking like my eyes saw it, but that’s what Lightroom excels at.

A quick practise tonight. Just about half an hour at the most, but we covered Tango, Waltz, Cha Cha and Bossa Nova in that time.

Tomorrow Scamp is intending to go for lunch with Isobel, June and Ian. I’m hopefully meeting Val for coffee in a different place, but at almost at the same time. Scamp and I will be able to compare and contrast our experiences!

Recovery – 29 August 2021

The day after the dance was over.

I thought I’d be aching a lot more than I was today. However, an extra half hour in bed and a relaxing day wouldn’t do any harm at all. With that in mind, the most strenuous thing I did in the morning was finish Friday’s sudoku. It’s strange that you can study these fascinating puzzles for hours on end without adding one number to the grid, then pick it up the next day and see all the clues you missed. It’s almost as if some good fairy comes in overnight and writes a few extra clues for you.

After lunch we had a wander round the garden, pruning this and dead heading that. We also discussed what was going to be moved and where it was going to as well as what was going to fill its space. It’s all sorted in Scamp’s head. She was just telling me about it. Sometimes, that’s what ‘discussion’ is.

I took the Big Dog and the Big Lens out for a walk in St Mo’s where I found two dragonflies, one male and one female who were perfectly happy to sit and be photographed. It was the male that made PoD, or more precisely, the head and thorax of the male dragonfly that made PoD. Interesting too was the shield bug carrying aloft a caterpillar like a trophy. Both are available on Flickr along with the delightful Troika rose.

Dinner had a bit of a cobbled together theme with half of yesterday’s Chicken Tikka Masala added to half a Vegetable Masala plus some cauliflower and served with rice. Actually it tasted really good, as did the Eve’s Pudding that was the dessert.

Spoke to Jamie later and heard about the trials of house buying. Once you’re past the initial excitement it’s all to do with money for this and more money for that. I don’t envy him this part of the game. Being Jamie, he played down his baking skills after making a Chocolate Swiss Roll.

We settled down to watch what turned out to be the shortest F1 GP in history. With only three laps completed under a safety car, in the torrential rain, Max Verstappen was declared the winner. I really felt bad for the fans who had paid to watch some racing and got to watch the rain falling.

Out fairly early again tomorrow to take the Blue car for its first service in Stirling. We may get the bus in to Stirling itself and go for a coffee.

Walking through Colzium – 26 August 2021

Another hot day. Maybe a tad cooler than yesterday, thankfully!

The day started with with a call from someone called “Unavailable.” Scamp decide we were too and cancelled the call. Five minutes later we had another call. I was going to answer and do some time wasting with the time waster, but thankfully we have Caller ID. It was Hazy. We had a good long chat about borrowing bikes, families, films to watch and lots, lots more. (Yes, we did watch Anneka, thank you. Interesting first episode. We’ll probably watch more of it.) Enjoyed the chat and catch up.

First thing we’d promised to do was to give all the plants a good feed of seaweed fertiliser. I did the back garden and Scamp did the front. It didn’t take all that long and I’m sure the plants benefitted by it.

We couldn’t decide what to do with the rest of the day and spent far too long discussing what we could do, to actually have the time to do it. What we did do was plan out how to get to the party on Saturday. Imagine, we’re invited to a birthday party on Saturday! Us, the oldies! It was great to be asked and of course we’re going. Now that we know where it is and how to get there. As Hazy reminded us, this is the second birthday party we’ve been invited in two years. Mind you, the first one in Irvine was done “in shifts” as she put it!

We finally agreed on a walk round Colzium. It’s not a long walk and we did an even shorter version of it today, but it’s fairly heavy going for a while with a stiff climb up the hill for the first part, then the easy bit that lulls you into thinking you’re past the worst, then the next bit long drag up to the top. However, the walk down is much more relaxing. I wanted to take some photos of the waterfalls at the top, but when we got there the water was just trickling down. No fun at all. We need more rain now. It didn’t stop me from climbing down the rocks and taking some shots. In the end, I wasn’t happy with them and they didn’t even manage a post in Flickr. The PoD went to a slightly edited version of the view of Granny’s Mutch, a shelter built to enjoy the view at the top of Colzium Estate. The Dictionary of the Scots Language defines a ‘mutch’ as “A head-dress, especially a close-fitting day cap of white linen or muslin, specifically such as used to be worn by married women”.

Walked back down the path on the other side of the burn, hoping there would be an ice cream van at the children’s play park at the bottom, but of course the schools are in here in Scotland so
No Children = No Ice Cream Van = No Ice Cream 😟

Dinner tonight was a stir-fry made, of course by Scamp, the expert Stir Fryer. It was delicious and I made myself a side of fried Padron Peppers, equally delicious.

Tomorrow we’re hoping for one last day of warm sunshine and a chance to go for a drive with a spot of lunch.

Out for a walk – 22 August 2021

Or two, in my case.

It was a warm sunny morning, but we didn’t really get going until the afternoon. We finally decided to walk round Broadwood again, but the opposite way round, just to be different. There wasn’t a lot to see, but when we came out at the wee pond near the Irn Bru factory, I did see a dragonfly sunning itself on the top of one of the NLC signs telling you what to look for. It could have been a living advert for the woodland walk, but it got its photo taken anyway. A few steps further on, there was another dragonfly, also sunning itself on a wooden fence. I tried for its photo, but couldn’t get through the grass that was shielding it. I gave up and eventually it did too and flew away. Still, I had one in the bag.

Back home I had a look through the afternoon’s shots and, yes, there was at least one shot of the dragonfly that would pass muster. However, there were more things out there, I was sure. So I left Scamp to read and went for a short walk in St Mo’s. Found more small dragonflies sitting on the upstand of the boardwalk and included them in my photos. Even better I found a Leaf-hopper, a bright green leaf-hopper (Cicadella viridis) and took its picture too. I tried a Wolf spider, but couldn’t get it all in focus. There was a Garden Cross spider but it was too far away and there was no way I was wading into the murky waters of St Mo’s pond. It’s bad enough when you don’t know what you’re walking in, but it’s worse if you do!  The leaf-hopper got PoD, just beating the posing dragonfly from earlier in the day.

Decided that I had enough and came home to make dinner which tonight was Naked Fish and Carrot Chips. I thought we had everything to make the dish, but then found we had no garlic. I added garlic granules but they didn’t quite cut it. Also, the carrot chips weren’t very chip-like. Discussion later with the chef himself, disclosed that he thinks there should be more cornflour than the recipe says. I agree with Jamie, that would probably work. We were discussing this when he phoned after the dinner was made and eaten. We also found out about how things are down Cambridge way. You forget that England has different rules and timings than up here. Schools are still on holiday there while they are back at work here. House buying seems to work on mystery and black magic there whereas it might be archaic here, but it’s much more clear cut.

Scamp had been working hard trying to learn some of the figures and their link steps form the second half of the Foxtrot routine. My versions were different, but between us we managed to get everything sorted out and it now looks doable again. It just needs a few more practise sessions and we’ll have a full foxtrot.

Tomorrow seems to be even better than today and today was good. Not too bright and sunny, but warm. Tomorrow we are governed by high pressure, so we should be dry at least. No plans.

Shopping in Stirling – 18 August 2021

We were away for the messages.

Scamp had mentioned that she fancied going to Sainsbury’s for the messages this week. The nearest one, that didn’t run the risk of five miles of queues because of road works, was in Stirling. As far as we knew, there would be no problem with folk digging up the road there, so off we went. We drove through the Raploch, once the worst housing estate in Scotland, now very up-market and the worst place to drive through in Scotland. Every few yards the road surface changes from tarmac to concrete to granite tiles. Speed bumps everywhere, and in the tiled areas they are colour matched to the tiles which makes driving very tricky, but ensures you keep within the 20mph limit. We found Sainsbury’s without any problem and I discovered I’d a message from Jamie with some very good news.

Lots of interesting things to buy in Sainsburys. First supermarket I’ve been in where they sell watches! Whatever next. But it felt like we’d gone back in time a year and a bit, because a lot of the shelves were empty. Not enough delivery drivers we’re told. Well, some of you silly buggers voted for Brexit and swallowed every fairy tale you were told. It looks like reality is coming home to bite you now that there aren’t enough low paid foreign workers wanting to come to the UK to work.

We’d found an interesting historical artefact when we were checking out the road to Sainsbury’s. There’s a Beheading Stone on a hill near the supermarket. We’d half intended going for a look, but as far as we could tell, there were no beheadings scheduled for today. Maybe another day then.

Back home we potted up the echinacea we bought on Monday. We’d bought a clay pot for it and Scamp had had it soaking in the bird bath for a few days. You have to do that with clay pots because otherwise they will draw water away from the compost and allow it to evaporate into the air. After we’d potted the plant up we gave it a good drink of pure rain water we’d collected during the heavy rain last week. Then it got to sit in the sun for a while at the front of the house, while a rose that had sat there all summer went to the back garden to rest a while.

I finally chopped and sawed down the remaining trunk and branches of the tree that had been growing between Angela’s garden and ours. The loppers did most of the work on the branches, but I had to resort to a panel saw for the trunk. I’d been talking to Fred before that and he was telling me that he recycles all his tree branches with a shredder. I don’t think we have enough trees to warrant the purchase of a shredder, but it would have been useful today. However, it all went into the brown bin today and it gets lifted tomorrow.

Went for a walk in the woods of St Mo’s later and got today’s PoD. It’s a little ball of moss on a dead tree branch. I liked the way the sun was just catching the moss. Not everyone’s favourite, but I liked it which is the reason it got PoD.

A longer and calmer practise tonight trying to put together the ‘back end’ of the foxtrot routine. Sometimes if feels more like a ‘backside’ rather than a back end, but it’s coming together slowly.

Tomorrow we are intending to take Margie out for coffee somewhere.

An afternoon in the country – 17 August 2021

The morning was work. The afternoon was photography.

Scamp was off to have coffee with Isobel in the morning and I was left to my own devices. First thing to do was to investigate the leaking shower cabinet. It turned out to be a leak in two corners. One tiny little drip and one a bit bigger. Both were being caused by mould growth in the sealant between the glass and the ceramic base of the shower. Half an hour of poking and prodding with a wee round pointed device whose original purpose was to score cardboard teased most of the gunge out and allowed me to start to dry the offending parts. Left them to dry out properly by themselves and started the second, and bigger, task.

The top of the chest of drawers in my room has not seen the light of day for about a year. Today I was set to remedy that. I had a big IKEA bag ready to hold the stuff that was going to the skips, that meant most of it. Some things I didn’t really want to chuck away, but I had to ask myself if I was ever likely to use it again and if I wasn’t, was I emotionally attached to it. If the answer to either of those questions was YES, then it got to stay for six months. If the answer to both question NO, then it was going to the skip, via the IKEA bag. Some things even got he heave after failing only one test. Sometimes you have to be ruthless. As the bag got fuller and fuller, the top of the chest of drawers magically appeared.

After Scamp came back and we had lunch, I took all the stuff in the car to the skips. Heavens, Jamie, you’re not going to believe this, but I even parted with a camera. A working camera! I won’t list all that went to landfill, but there was a a lot. With the boot of the car empty I could go to B&Q to get a tube of sealant for the shower, and have somewhere to put it. Next stop was Screwfix for a Hive plug socket. The number of times I’ve left the house and driven to the bottom of the road wondering if I’ve left the phone charger or some other piece of dodgy equipment switched on. Now I can check on my phone if it’s on and with a touch of the screen, turn it off. Hopefully it will be worth the money in peace of mind. Two things in the boot. Time for some photo opportunities.

Drove up to Fannyside Moor and found an old fencepost strapped to its new replacement with its great collection of mosses and lichen. It looked like a little garden, although one comment on Flickr likened it to a “micro rainforest”. I understand what he meant. It got PoD. Found a little wee ladybird with sixteen spots. Dark red wing covers and white spots. It’s a Cream-spot Ladybird (Calvia quattuordecimguttata) and it’s not very rare.

Back home, Scamp made Sea Bass with asparagus and home grown Potatoes. Absolutely brilliant. Later we had a quick practise of the final parts of the Foxtrot we’ve been learning. I say ’final’, but it’s likely the teachers will add another two or three little bits to the end of the routine.

No plans for tomorrow, although a trip out for ‘the messages’ is not out of the question.

Crossed Wires – 28 July 2021

We were supposed to meet Isobel for coffee today. We were there, but where was Isobel?

For once there were some empty tables when we arrived at Costa, an unusual occurrence at 11am. Usually it’s really busy with mums and screaming weans and auld yins taking up the rest of the seats. However, not only were there no screaming weans, but one auld yin (don’t tell her I said that) was missing too. Where was Isobel? After ordering and consuming our coffees Scamp decided she’d better phone the missing party to find out what was wrong. The answer was that she thought Scamp had agreed to pick her up. Scamp denied that, but agreed that we’d drive down to the Village for a coffee with her in her house.

I dropped Scamp off at the house and then parked the car. This let Scamp deal with the problem before I got there. As it happened we didn’t bother with coffee, just sat talking about the holiday, dancing and families. As usual with Isobel, we were entertained for a couple of hours.

Next on the agenda was a visit to B&Q for a piece of dowel to fix the cheapo wheels bins the council granted us with. I imagine there were the cheapest, seconds they could find. The plastic pins that form the hinge for the lid are wearing and I’ve had to replace one already. Today I was replacing the other one. A piece of 15mm diameter wooden dowel would do the job nicely. It’s now done and will be tested tomorrow when the bin is emptied.

After lunch I watched a video by Robin Wong explaining how to do some clever things with the E-M1 mk2. I’ve had the camera for about six months now and hadn’t realised you could do these things. Later I took the Oly out to see if his tricks worked, and of course they did. He’s a really clever guy and when I came home I found another video showing more clever tricks that I’ll test tomorrow, all being well.

Today’s PoD was shot in St Mo’s and is a worm’s eye view of Horsetails growing through gaps in the boardwalk. Almost as soon as they get about 5cm above the decking, they get trodden on or kicked until the break. Still they just keep growing. Horsetails can be traced back to the early Jurassic period. If they survived the dinosaurs, I’m sure they’ll not be destroyed by a few booted walkers.

Tomorrow I’m booked to meet Val for coffee. I’m hoping he knows I’m not coming to pick him up!

Crossed Wires – 28 July 2021

We were supposed to meet Isobel for coffee today. We were there, but where was Isobel?

For once there were some empty tables when we arrived at Costa, an unusual occurrence at 11am. Usually it’s really busy with mums and screaming weans and auld yins taking up the rest of the seats. However, not only were there no screaming weans, but one auld yin (don’t tell her I said that) was missing too. Where was Isobel? After ordering and consuming our coffees Scamp decided she’d better phone the missing party to find out what was wrong. The answer was that she thought Scamp had agreed to pick her up. Scamp denied that, but agreed that we’d drive down to the Village for a coffee with her in her house.

I dropped Scamp off at the house and then parked the car. This let Scamp deal with the problem before I got there. As it happened we didn’t bother with coffee, just sat talking about the holiday, dancing and families. As usual with Isobel, we were entertained for a couple of hours.

Next on the agenda was a visit to B&Q for a piece of dowel to fix the cheapo wheels bins the council granted us with. I imagine there were the cheapest, seconds they could find. The plastic pins that form the hinge for the lid are wearing and I’ve had to replace one already. Today I was replacing the other one. A piece of 15mm diameter wooden dowel would do the job nicely. It’s now done and will be tested tomorrow when the bin is emptied.

After lunch I watched a video by Robin Wong explaining how to do some clever things with the E-M1 mk2. I’ve had the camera for about six months now and hadn’t realised you could do these things. Later I took the Oly out to see if his tricks worked, and of course they did. He’s a really clever guy and when I came home I found another video showing more clever tricks that I’ll test tomorrow, all being well.
On the subject of PoDs, July 23rd’s PoD the mono shot of the sheep at the house in Cumbria won Explore on Flickr.  Explore means it was one of the best shots of the day.  I was quite impressed, but not surprised, as it was a lovely shot, even if I say so myself!

Today’s PoD was shot in St Mo’s and is a worm’s eye view of Horsetails growing through gaps in the boardwalk. Almost as soon as they get about 5cm above the decking, they get trodden on or kicked until the break. Still they just keep growing. Horsetails can be traced back to the early Jurassic period. If they survived the dinosaurs, I’m sure they’ll not be destroyed by a few booted walkers.

We had been warned that there would be thunder and lightning during the night with heavy rain in the early hours.  There were a few peals of thunder, but very distant.  However, the rain did make an appearance and was welcomed by plants in the garden, but more will be needed before they will be happy.  How strange it is to wish for rain!

 

Tomorrow I’m booked to meet Val for coffee. I’m hoping he knows I’m not coming to pick him up!

Driving home – 23 July 2021

It always comes to this day.

We had packed last night. Really all that had to be done was to load the car and tidy up the house. That work took about an hour and a half with all four of us doing our bit. Then the hugs and goodbyes with the promise that we’d do it again soon. I hope we do.

Drove in convoy with Hazy and Neil D until they branched off to go past Broughton in Furness and we headed for the northbound M6. A fair few holdups on the road, but once we were on the motorway it was plain sailing. Stopped at Gretna to stretch our legs and window shop, although I did buy a new kitchen knife. Then it was back on the road and home.

All the plants needed a drink, it looked like they had not had any real rain either

I’d taken some shots of the mist covered Duddon Valley with sheep coming across the field for their morning drink. That was easily the PoD.

Tomorrow we may go dancing … in a hall … with a wooden floor … wearing dance shoes … and … WITH OTHER PEOPLE IN THE ROOM!!!